Talk: Arte e materie humanistiche: L'università pubblica nella valorizzazione dei saperi «Inutili»

Talk: Arte e materie humanistiche: L'università pubblica nella valorizzazione dei saperi «Inutili»

Marco Maria Gazzano / Italy

Many things have changed in the world since the era of “globalization” was opened with the US-sponsored commercial twentieth-century trade agreements. A sharp shift in the economy from national to planetary markets, which also involved cultural changes and costumes: interdependence and interclassing of symbols, cultural homogenization, new wealth, but also progressive destruction of productive, natural, and anthropological diversity.

And even more has changed with the global financial crisis started in 2008 and not yet over. For Europe and the North Americans this crisis was a disaster: for the workers and the middle class, in particular. Perhaps global wealth has been partly redistributed to China and some Latin American countries (just comparing Colombia's GDP with that of Italy), but the system is not yet in balance. The crisis has not turned into an opportunity.

Social inequalities have increased both in the planet and in individual countries: increased exploitation of workers and diminished rights acquired over time (even a significant percentage of slavery emerges), wealth was concentrated in 5% of the population of the planet, Financial capitalism has shaken off its production and its consolidated dynamics of interaction with workers and society, commodity prices have collapsed and many developing countries are suddenly depleting (the value of financial capital now stands at 7 Times the planet's GDP …), the power of the mafias and the illegal economy increased; And strategic resources for the balance of the ecosystem are being destroyed.

However, although the real power is not that of the governments but of the Banks and Web Multinationals, after the 2008 crisis, some of the myths that base the new post-ideological culture – myths exalted as models by the Mass Media and the Networks Of social sharing developed on the Internet – are losing attractiveness and seduction. The “free market”, and Darwinian competition as its corollary, are no longer the only reference model in the economy or in other aspects of human interaction; “Winners” and heroes are not only considered entrepreneurs, strongmen, speculators; The Network itself is no longer considered innocent and neutral. Little by little, it begins to re-consider the importance (even economic, long-term) of ethics in the analysis of social phenomena; “Innovation” is no longer just synonymous with technological equipment but also experimentation at all levels; Even concepts such as “compassion” and “solidarity” in the management of social relations and between communities are emerging, despite the recent spread of reactions to globalization built on intolerance, racism and religious fundamentalism.

It is discussed again, and it did not happen in the West since the 1980s, ecology, anthropology, “sustainability” and balance between natural resources, storage and use of raw materials, market. Social sensitivity in the consideration of “diversity” is widespread: biological, cultural, natural, productive, gender. And despite the aggressive policies of multinationals and many powerful states with their “populist” leadership, the global economy and its most conscious elites are trying to trigger a virtuous transition from “free market economies” to “market economy managers”.

At this time of planetary chaos, what contribution could the University give, that is, the institution that has been par excellence for centuries to the conservation, transmission and production of knowledge? What role could the University take again – that “public” in particular, less tied than private to particular interests or constant funding research – for decades flattened in its functions?

One must not forget that, on the one hand, only the professors – unlike politicians, industrialists and journalists – are in a position to communicate unpopular truths without putting (too much) at risk its position; On the other, only universities, academics and university researchers have the freedom and resources (albeit few) needed to draft impartial and objective studies. For this reason -in designing a new development model: global and interdependent, but sustainable and respectful of both differences and memory- the University and scientific research are strategic. And so the University must be considered – first of all by itself, even before politicians or peoples- as an institution that, in democracy, assumes an almost “constitutive role”: the function, irreplaceable, the preservation of liberties, and those of thought and dissent above all. A body of mediation, conservation and production of knowledge essential to the strengthening of a conscious, responsible and truly participatory democracy: therefore, in perspective, necessary for the strengthening and preservation of the Peace.

However, besides the necessary attention to the specialists and beyond the small logic of internal power, the universities must, again, learn, as in the Abbeys of 1000 years ago, the pride of forming leaders of not only specialized executives. We need to learn not only to think but to “think together”, to participate in a common “conversation” capable of engaging both students and teachers, both administrators and technicians and scientists, with different roles and functions. Architects, engineers, humanists, philosophers. One must learn – and it is neither easy nor painless – to link technological and scientific knowledge with the humanistic and critical one.

In this perspective, it is very important to preserve, pass on, comment on and produce knowledge in search directions and in practices that are not immediately considered – economically – “useful”, that is, spendable on the market. Not only because the seemingly “useless” today could only be “not understood” by its contemporaries but very useful (even economically) tomorrow. And not only to cultivate, in a sort of ecology of knowledge, artistic, critical, philosophical, and anthropological “biodiversity” by linking them with the “hard sciences” of technological and scientific knowledge (from chemistry to computer science). Not just to learn to think and to act – both at the same time and necessarily – in strictly disciplinary or trans-disciplinary and trans-cultural terms.

How to ultimately make the company more resistant to such profound changes. Because the University (public, in particular) should not flatten so much in the function of training students as future workers, rather than trying to recover that of people's education: to help students in their growth process, to help them recognize them as people, Aware and responsible citizens; And therefore also, as intelligent and innovative workers. Again, like a time, even in the age of global interdependence, capable of interpreting, designing, and governing the future. With the necessary equilibrium and happy to do it.